The layoff notices are termed state restriction of appointments, Jolley said, adding that they give the employees first pick at available state jobs. The employees are guaranteed their jobs until April 1.
Fair President and Chief Executive Steve Beazley also received a letter.
Beazley said he is likely to be let go if the private firm, Newport Beach-based Facilities Management West, takes over the fairgrounds.
"It's one of the reasons I went to school, so I have as many choices as possible," he said. "I knew for quite some time that they may choose to pick someone else. I'm a wanderer, anyway."
Facilities Management executives also met with the employees and announced their "interest" in hiring the 81 full-time employees once the sale is finalized, according to a statement from the company.
Becky Bailey-Findley, former fairgrounds president and chief executive who once worked with Costa Mesa City Hall to help it craft a purchase of the 150-acre property from the state, would be retained to transition the fairgrounds into the new ownership, hire and train a permanent CEO.
"We wanted to end the uncertainty for the employees whose work we have admired, and share the great news that Becky will lead the team," Guy Lemmon, Facilities Management spokesman, said in the prepared statement. "We look forward to a collaborative effort to protect and enhance the already iconic OC Fair and all existing fairground activities. The employees will play a key role in the continued and future success of the fairgrounds."
David Ellis, Fair Board chairman, said a subcommittee was in discussions to sell the fairgrounds' personal and intellectual property.